The 21st has come and gone and I’m sad to see it go. I type this with a left hand of freshly calloused fingers, with Prosecco gummy bears making their way to my stomach, and with a soul aglow. Last night, I got to spend three and a half hours praying, worshiping and feasting with friends. I’m sharing details on the blog in case someone wants to plan a similar night with their own friends. Do try this at home!
The origin story
A couple months ago, a friend called to share her frustration and hopelessness with singleness with me. In the two weeks that followed, several others did the same. I had been praying about how to encourage them each and then thought, why not plan something for all of them. I decided to have them over to pray. It kind of morphed from there.
I did not want this night to be about praying for a husband or strictly for venting. As I opened a new Google doc to begin planning, I put 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth,” on the top of the page. I wanted it to be a night of Christ-exalting and truth-telling.
I emailed my friends who had prompted the idea, got a date they would be available and then started on an invite. I wanted the night to be special because I wanted my friends to feel special. I thought about what I might be able to do to help that happen.
Hours of prayer went toward the night and the women attending. Starting a month out, I emailed each of the ladies weekly asking how I could pray for them related to their singleness. Twice, I sent back prayers written out based on their specific requests. Women wrote back how blessed they were but really, I feel like I got the most out of this exercise. I love praying for people and so my cup ran over to have specific ways to intercede for friends, plus while they each got two prayers reminding them of God’s love and faithfulness I got twenty!
Leading up to the event, I wrote a series on my blog about singleness. They were written for this night, for these friends, and sometimes with bits of their story they shared as prayer requests coming to mind as I wrote. Whether they knew it or not, they each inspired various sentences. Each piece roughly corresponded to each part of ACTS. I shared two for confession: one general one about singleness and one specific to being black and single. I wrote Enough is Enough for adoration and Red Bean and Singleness for Thanksgiving. I emailed each piece along with some questions for further reflection the week before. I still have three pieces to write that I’ll work on this week—one on supplication, one on Psalm 16, the heartbeat of my thoughts on singleness, and a short catechism (teaser below!).
I also sent them the first chapter of Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness called God Doesn’t Owe You a Husband. I’ve read a lot of stuff about singleness over the years but this was refreshing. It was painfully honest, steeped in truth and delightfully written. I highly recommend.
I wanted worship to be a part of the evening and their individual heart preparation for it so I spent a few weeks scouring YouTube for songs that aligned with the night’s themes and that had lyrics that moved me. I selected eight and decided to learn four of them on guitar to lead worship for the evening. It had been twelve years since I led worship on a guitar but was hopeful I could do a decent job with a month of practice and easy enough songs. I made the playlist with all eight songs on YouTube and sent it to the group.
- Nothing Without You by Will Reagan
- Singing in the Victory by Austin Stone Worship*
- Jesus What a Savior by Kalley Heiligenthal and Jeremy Riddle*
- Yes and Amen by Pat Barrett
- You and You Alone by Upperroom
- All I Know (Your Love Endures) by Housefires*
- You are My Peace by Housefires*
- Glorious Grace by Austin Stone Worship
*songs we sang together
I would listen to these songs as I would write, at work, and on my commute. When I woke up and practiced the songs on my guitar before work it was like having my own little worship service to start the day. When I came home from work and played them again it was the same. I sandwiched my days in worship and I got to live this praise experience over and over again.
I originally said they’d get one dessert, but as I began my planning I really wanted them to associate each part of the evening with sweetness. I wanted them to see adoration as sweet, confession as sweet, thanksgiving as sweet, and supplication as sweet.
For adoration, the first course, I chose Prosecco gummy bears in champagne flutes. I wanted the dessert to signify celebration and thought what better way to do this than with a nod to the bubbly. For the gals who were on diets or didn’t drink, I had sparkling water as an option as well. These gummies were so addicting I ate some with breakfast multiple days the week before! Does that count as day drinking?
For confession, I looked to the Passover seder for inspiration. I chose haroset, a paste made of apples, pear, walnuts, and raisins which signifies the mortar used during the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt. It was meant to represent their deliverance both physically and spiritually. For confession, it symbolized our need of deliverance from bondage to sins and lies we believe.
For thanksgiving, I had the idea of richness in mind. I posed the question, “what’s the most decadent dessert you’ve had.” I wrote their responses down in my planning spreadsheet and gave them what they said. About half responded and got exactly what they asked for, the others could eat from that. One liked mochi, so I got her a box. Another loved brownies and mint chocolate chip ice cream so I made brownies in muffin tins and got a small individual size container of that ice cream. One friend like a specific kind of pie her friend makes, so I asked her friend for the recipe and made her one. Another had raved about a cake she’d had in Italy and when I went grocery shopping one time they had a limited edition cake mix of the same flavor so I nabbed that for the evening. When I pulled item after item out of the fridge, they remarked that I’d gone all out, and I said, “This is really nothing compared to what God does for us,” which was the point in my little display of extravagance.
For supplication, my sister, who drove up for the night, brought Trillionaire’s Shortbread, a salty dessert with a shortbread bottom covered with pretzels, salt and vinegar chips, salted caramel and bittersweet chocolate. I thought of the story of Hannah weeping bitterly in 1 Samuel 1 because she wanted a child but was barren and the tender words of Psalm 56:8, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each on in your book.” The salt in this dessert signified the tears we’ve shed in our supplication.
I am such a liturgy geek. I haven’t always been, but when I was unable to attend church my first year in Laos, I would create my own services. I loved pairing prayers with worship songs and passages of scripture and so it was sheer delight to put together the schedule for the evening. I printed the schedule on blue sheets of paper and the song lyrics on regular paper and gave one of each to each woman as she entered.
Each section opened with a worship song (which I led clumsily but my friends were gracious!), then a scripture reading. After reading the passage, it was time for dessert and discussion. I distributed and explained the desserts and we discussed the question on the handout. After the discussion, we read a prayer aloud together. The prayers of adoration and confession I wrote myself. The prayers of thanksgiving and confession I pulled from the Book of Common Prayer and from one of my favorite books, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. This was followed by a few minutes of personal reflection and prayer before opening it back up to group prayer as people felt led. Rinse and repeat.
The Planning Experience
All parts of this were a joy to me. One of the things I love about having the gift of encouragement is how it points me back to God in two ways. First, I am encouraged by the encouragement I give. I find I need reminders of truth just as much as those I am reminding. It is impossible for me to be the deliverer of truth without being reflexively blessed by it. Second, though, it always points me to God. The care that I take to consider my friend’s needs and desires, to choose the right word for the circumstance, to ponder how I might bless them all points back to how the Lord loves me. I am reminded of God’s care, attentiveness, specificity, and big heartedness toward me when I seek to bless others. I think, “If I, imperfect as I am, gladly expend this much effort to delight my friends, how much more must God labor over his particular, individualized, elaborately developed blessings for me?”